Sunday, December 02, 2012


© danny howard
 I was able to chaperone a field trip to the San Francisco Symphony this past week for Zoe's third grade class. We endured a broken MUNI light rail train and rainy weather and managed to arrive a few minutes into the program. We heard Beethoven's intro to Symphony No. 5 as we filed into the rows in the upper balcony. Dim lighting and warmth relaxed everyone. When the program ended, the kids were complaining that it was too short. And it brought back memories of similar field trips from my elementary school years.

Growing up as a child of working-class immigrants, culture generally was the last priority on the list of enriching childhood experiences, which was very short to begin with. My parents' focus was on food, shelter, and education. I looked forward to field trips, any field trips, because they took me outside of my immediate circumstances. I remember the coziness of the War Memorial Opera House, the pre-Loma Prieta earthquake deYoung museum and Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts. They were mysterious places, full of history and stories. We saw the King Tutankhamen exhibit - the 1970s version - and watched planetarium shows. Cow eyes were dissected back then, too. Dates and details are vague after 35 years; impressions are as sharp as they were when I was eight.

On the way back to school, we boarded a nearly empty train. As we traveled westward, past Castro Street station, one of the kids said, "Look at that! That's so cool."

I looked out the front window of the train and saw a seemingly endless stretch of track illuminated by closely spaced lights on either end. Forest Hill station was too far away to be an end point. Some of us gazed at the void while the train moved at a steady clip, the wheels providing a soothing rhythm, the car slightly swaying. It was easy to imagine that West Portal, our destination and transfer point, was not just another station but a portal through time, through physical space, through dimensions, a wormhole to a separate reality.

Wonder still reigns.

1 comment:

wylie said...

I'm so used to just pressing a "like" button without commenting. But just needed to comment: I really enjoyed this post! Also, great to see you blogging again. :)